What You Need to Know About Renting a Car Abroad

rent a car abroad

As society and technology advances, the world starts to feel smaller and more connected. And the ease of traveling abroad plays a huge part in that.

International travel used to mean months, or even years, of planning and saving. Now, you can plan and research everything with a click of the button.

And not only is traveling to another country easier, but now getting around in a foreign country can be a fairly simple task as well. Car rentals are a popular way to travel, especially for those looking to create their own foreign adventure rather than getting caught in tourist traps.

But, before you book, there are a few things you should be sure of.

The actual renting of a car can be easily done, but you want to make sure you are informed and prepared before you book your international go-mobile.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the process of renting a car abroad.

#1. Make Sure You Are Licensed to Drive

The first thing you should check is whether or not your U.S. driver’s license will be accepted in the country you are traveling to. Many English-speaking countries allow you to rent a car with your U.S. license, but others require an International Driving Permit (IDP).

IDPs are fairly easy to get, but you will need to do so before you leave and allow enough time for it to process.

First, check with your destination country’s embassy to see if you will need an IDP to rent a car. If you do, you will need to contact AAA or National Automobile Club to apply for one. You should allow 4-6 weeks before your trip for the IDP to be processed.

For the application process, you will need to fill out an application, provide them 2 passport-style photos, a valid driver’s license, and pay a small fee. Then, you’ll be good to drive abroad for a year.

Don’t forget– this process needs to be done in your home country, and you need to check any age requirements for renting a car in your destination country. And be sure to carry your passport, driver’s license, and IDP at all times while driving abroad.

#2. Get Insurance Coverage

Most U.S. based auto-insurance companies will not cover rental cars abroad, so you will need to research and invest in insurance coverage from the rental car company. And you will want to read the fine print of that insurance to make sure you have the coverage you need.

Some countries require certain additional coverages or have minimum requirements for coverage that you will need to know before you go. Some good things to ask about are zero-deductible collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage that will cover you in case of an accident, or loss and damage waiver (LDW) and theft protection.

#3. Book a Car You’re Comfortable Driving

Something you should know before traveling abroad is that most other countries drive manual transmission cars. While you might need to pay more for an automatic, it’s recommended that you do if you don’t know how to drive a stick. Driving in a foreign country is not the best time to add a new driving skill to the repertoire.

Also, keep in mind that countries like England, Australia, and Ireland drive on the opposite side of the road from the U.S., so you will need to mentally prepare for that.

And book before you go! This will save you money and give you ample time to be prepared for your trip.

#4. Invest in a GPS

You have multiple options when it comes to GPS navigation systems for your foreign travel adventure. There are multiple apps you can download for international travel that will give you step-by-step guidance, but you will want to double check that you won’t be using data that could rack up your bill.

You can usually purchase a GPS system for use in your rental car, and you will want to know the price difference between that and a downloaded mobile phone app.

#5. Do Your Road Research

Look into the common rules of the road so you know before drive. For example, in the States you can usually turn right on a red light, but in Ireland you can never turn left on a red. Familiarize yourself as much as possible with the traffic laws and common practices of driving.

You will also want to look up gas prices and figure out the exchange rates so you can budget your trip appropriately.

#6. Check for Charges

Always ask questions about the specific charges the car rental company has before you book. You should know their policies on bringing back a car late, what time the expected drop-off is, and what their gas charges are.

There can be hidden fees when renting a car that aren’t explained upfront, so if you book ahead of time and ask the rental company, you will have all the information you need.

#7. Check for Deals

More often than not you can find some deals or promos for international car rentals online. A simple Google search for discounts can help you save some bucks.

It’s also worth asking about any credit card, frequent flier discounts, add-on offers, senior citizen or travel membership discounts. Checking online or with the car rental agency may take a few extra minutes, but it could save you a lot of money.

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